How will people discover the wonderful new book you just had published?
If you answered “online” you may want to pause a moment and think a bit more deeply about that.
At the recent Digital Book World Conference in New York, Peter Hildick-Smith, the founder and CEO of the Codex Group, which tracks frequent readers’ book-buying behavior, said that the way readers discover the books they will purchase and where they actually will buy those books has been “decoupled.”
Laura Owen Hazard explained in a post on Paid Content, Why Online Book Discovery Is Broken (and How to Fix It), “New research shows that frequent book buyers visit sites like Pinterest and Goodreads regularly, but those visits fail to drive actual book purchases… readers are likely to go online to buy a book after having learned about it elsewhere.”
Recent studies indicate that 61% of book purchases by frequent book buyers take place online, but only 7% of buyers say they discovered that book online. On the other hand, physical bookstores account for 39% of units sold but 20% of discoveries of books people bought.
“Something is really, chronically missing in online retail discovery,” Hildick-Smith said.
The conference produced three suggestions for how to address the problem:
- Publishers should do more to protect physical bookstores as movie studios have protected theaters.
- There is hope that the Penguin-Random House merger will produce a new entry into the world of brick and mortar book retailing.
- Matthew Baldacci, VP and associate publisher at St. Martin’s, advised that as bookstores go away, “we need more powerful book reviewers online.”
These ideas seem short-sighted. Henry Baum, gets it right in a post on The Self Publishing Review titled Print Still Matters. He said, “Digital Book World’s advice that there needs to be more brick and mortar bookstores is a nice idea, but given that people are making purchases online anyway, even after setting foot in a store, means this idea is unsustainable.”
So what can you do about getting your book discovered?
If you believe, as the data at Digital Book World suggests, that people are more likely to buy your book if they can pick it up and hold it in their hands, event marketing is for you. Appearing at book festivals, author events and speaking to groups give you the opportunity to expose people to your printed book. That’s particularly important if your book is nonfiction. Currently twice as many nonfiction books are sold in physical bookstores as opposed to the online variety. If you decide to use events to market your book Patricia Fry, executive director f The Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN), offers some good ideas on how to do it in Talk Up Your Book.
In the long run though, you need to make online discovery work for you. That means a different approach than the one people at Digital Book World decried. Brett Sandusky, Director of Product Development for The Holocene, a digital publishing platform, explains, “More and more, I see, both in theory and practice, the idea of community building as core to product marketing strategy.” Ironically Sandusky’s words appear in a post on his blog Bootstrap: Building a Marketing Strategy From Scratch. On the Digital Book World site
Building community means a narrow more focused approach to reaching potential readers. It means knowing who your potential readers are, where to find them online, and how to interact with them.
Okay, where’s the blueprint for that? There really isn’t one yet. People are experimenting with a lot of things. Social media is the go to method most experts suggest. But people are experimenting with others. McSweeney’s has had some success with a subscription model. (Hey, it works for wine clubs!) Some authors are building mailing lists of fans and reaching out to them with email marketing campaigns. Email marketing is a powerful tool that can be free or at least low cost. Mitch Joel’s book Six Pixels of Separation remains a good overview of things you might consider about how to relate to people online.
The idea of becoming a thought leader or trusted expert is highly touted, but the key thing you must remember is that you don’t necessarily have to be a thought leader for the world at large, you just have to reach the people who are likely to buy your book.